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NYCB Vol. 7 No. 10 - Afternoon of a Faun

When you watch Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun in the audience, you become aware that the opening of the proscenium is actually the mirrored wall of a studio. I've found it interesting this season to think about the different implications of this choreographic device and how as an audience member you can choose to interact with this device in multiple ways to change or enhance your viewing experience.

While the dancers onstage are 'unaware' of the audience, their eyes instead appear to be locked on each other in the invisible mirror. In the aduience, do you imagine that the mirrored wall as been removed so that week can see in? Or are we watching through a 2-way mirror? Or do you imagine the mirror at the back of the house and we, the audience, are actually sitting inside the studio with the dancers, with our backs against the mirror?

My favorite interpretation has been the idea that what we see on stage is actually the mirror image and that the "real" dancers are invisible, dancing somewhere over the audience's heads. P.W. Manchester wrote of the premiere: "Before Faun is halfway through, we have the feeling that the dancers we are watching have become the reflection, not the reality." Amanda Vaill suggested that in the rehearsal room, with Robbins at the front facing the dancers, that they reflected back to him an image of his internal self.

The next time you have a chance to watch this ballet live, have some fun and play around with these different perspectives! Let me know which one you like most.

These photos are of Jay Norman and Wilma Curley in rehearsals for Robbins' company Ballets: U.S.A. in 1958. I love the first photo because it allows the viewer to SEE the mirror image that the dancers are visualizing in their heads when they perform onstage.

Jay Norman & Wilma Curley. Photos by Martha Swope, 1958.

New York Public Library

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